Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Indignation and Inclusion: Activism, Difference, and Emergent Urban Politics in Postcrash Madrid

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Indignation and Inclusion: Activism, Difference, and Emergent Urban Politics in Postcrash Madrid

Article excerpt

Abstract

How to create radical democracy in a moment of crisis and austerity? On the one hand, geographies of autonomy, solidarity, and resistance can offer hope, promise, and utopian anticapitalist alternatives for future action. On the other hand, agonistic initiatives that discard consensus in favor of conflictive engagement with institutions of state rule can allow for pluralism and the acceptance of difference. Perhaps, however, actually existing democracy can be achieved through an emphasis on process that bridges both activist ideologies. Looking to competing forms of activism in Madrid's housing movement, I identify two strands of action--radical autonomy versus agonistic engagement. Despite their profound disjunctures, however, I argue these strands complement each other to ultimately experience convergence, which in turn contributes to the flourishing of new political initiatives. Within this convergence, feminist perspectives attuned to difference have been crucial in forcing transformation through existing democratic structures. The resulting political projects engage with mechanisms of state rule while drawing on practices and procedures from autonomous struggles to elaborate frameworks for institutional change. In the process, I demonstrate the possibility of collaboration between competing modes of activism--often conceived as incommensurate--in the broader quest for emancipation from neoliberal state rule.

Keywords

Social movements, autonomy, radical democracy, Spain, electoral politics, gender

Introduction

How to create radical democracy in a moment of crisis and austerity? On the one hand, geographies of autonomy, solidarity, and resistance can offer hope, promise, and utopian anticapitalist alternatives for future action. On the other hand, agonistic initiatives that discard consensus in favor of conflictive engagement with institutions of state rule can allow for pluralism and the acceptance of difference. Perhaps, however, actually existing democracy can be achieved through an emphasis on process that bridges both activist ideologies.

To demonstrate the possibility for convergence, this article takes up the case of Spain, where such considerations animate contemporary activisms and political projects. Within the last year, that country has witnessed a flourishing of initiatives engaged with state rule that seek its transformation. A national left-leaning populist party led by the charismatic political scientist Pablo Iglesias, Podemos burst onto the scene in early 2014 and quickly gained both a large base and national electoral victories. Yet other efforts such as Ganemos Madrid identify new mechanisms for radical democracy within the more intimate scale of the city. In popular accounts, these initiatives are largely understood as the legacy of 15M and the indignados, the institutional consequences of outrage and politicization (The next Syriza? As Greece rejects austerity, meet the activist who could become Spain's new PM). Such a description, however, presents a contradiction: How does a movement committed fully to autonomy and political exodus translate into initiatives designed explicitly to effect institutional change? Indeed, to ascribe these efforts wholly to this movement elides the various activisms that have contributed to these projects. In particular, this narrative ignores the influence of feminist activism accommodating to issues of gender and difference in articulating paths toward deeply democratic formations.

In this article, I look at these emergent initiatives in relation to Madrid's housing movement. Through an ethnographic examination of these mobilizations, I identify two ideological strands of action--the radical autonomy of the indignados and the agonistic engagement of issue-based platforms that address endangered forms of social reproduction. Despite their profound disjunctures, however, I argue these strands act symbiotically to ultimately experience convergence, which in turn contributes to the flourishing of new political initiatives. …

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